Following the news coverage leading up to the 2016 American election, I wondered if there was a place for hope in an atmosphere of division and fear. In the days leading up to the election, my friend Will and I travelled from the Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. area to Washington D.C., on a pilgrimage of sorts. We wanted to experience a historical moment and to better understand our neighbours to the south. (See the video below.)
Five years ago, a men’s group that we’re a part of had driven to Washington, to visit and learn. We spent time at the newly-inaugurated Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and observed that the visitors were visibly moved. We stayed at the International Guest House, a Mennonite ministry in the city. On Sunday we attended Zion Baptist Church and met the pastor. We explored the Lincoln, Vietnam and Korean War Memorials.
Five years later, Will Winterfeld, a carpenter/builder and I returned to the city to witness the 2016 American presidential election. We arrived on November 5 and returned home the day after the election. We defined our trip as a pilgrimage by agreeing we would report our findings and experiences to Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church, our home congregation, and friends in the community. I used my cell phone as a video camera, and we used a digital audio recorder for gathering sound.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” What, we wondered, did this mean when the prevailing attitude between the members of the political parties is one of bitter antagonism, if not of hatred?
Once again we stayed at the guest house and visited the Baptist church. One of the most exciting outcomes of the trip were our interviews with Rev. Dr. Keith Byrd, pastor of Zion Baptist Church, and with Lawrence and Sharon Ressler, hosts at the guest house. They offered hopeful insight on what the church might have to offer in the months and years following the election of Donald J. Trump.
What is our calling as followers of Jesus in light of new political realities? What lessons can be learned for those of us living north of the U.S. border? We welcome your thoughts and insights in response to the video.